Let’s hang out…

Come and join me at these fall book events. They’re going to be a blast, and I would love to see friendly faces!

Word Vancouver
Sunday, September 29th, 2:50-3:50 pm
I’ll be on the children’s stage with the wonderful Lee Edward Fodi (author of The Secret of Zoone) and Mahtab Narsimhan (Embrace the Chicken). We’re downtairs in the Alice McKay room at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch. Between us, we have books about butter chicken, skateboarding sisters, and skygers. What better combination could you possibly find?

Vancouver Writers Festival
Tuesday, October 22nd, 1-2:15 pm
Thursday, October 24th, 10:15-11:45 am

On the Tuesday, I’m talking all about Under Pressure and the science of stress. I promise, you will be so prepared if you run into a bear on the way home from Granville Island. On the Thursday, I’m talking “Empowered Kids” with Sara Cassidy (Nevers), Michael Hutchinson (The Case of Windy Lake), and moderator France Perras. That’s three wise, insightful people, and me!

Word is a free event, a whole jam-packed day of literary goodness. Tickets for the Vancouver Writers Festival go on sale September 11th for school groups and September 16th for the public. (And many events sell out, so get yours early.)

Hope to see you there!




TD Children’s Book Week

I spent last week winding my way from Ottawa to Toronto as part of TD Children’s Book Week. The event is organized each year by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. The centre chooses thirty authors, illustrators, and storytellers from across Canada, shuffles them up, and sends them across the country.

The official TD Book Week banner.

There were LOTS of B.C. folks travelling this year. My friend Kallie George explored Prince Edward Island. Another writing group member, Sara Gillingham, flew around the Northwest Territories on frighteningly tiny planes. And Lee Edward Fodi zipped back and forth across Toronto.

I began my trip with a visit to the Carp branch of the Ottawa Public Library, which is on the grounds of the Diefenbunker, a steel and concrete structure built as a Cold War hideout for Canadian government officials. You could see it in this photograph, except… it’s underground.

This is where you hide from impending nuclear disaster.

I did a second presentation at lovely Elmwood School near downtown Ottawa, then I was off to the picturesque but teensy village of Sharbot Lake, followed by ever-so-slightly-larger Tweed.

Apparently North America’s smallest jailhouse.

Along my route, there were storybook farms and Canadian shield scenes which I’m quite sure came straight from my seventh-grade social studies textbook.

Probably a movie set? Could farm scenes this perfect be real?

Marmora had both the prettiest church and the prettiest school library. (Don’t you want to just stay here and read forever?)

Sacred Heart Catholic School in Mormora.

By Friday, I was worried my voice or my energy might give out, but Trent Lakes turned out to be one of my favourite stops. I signed an armload of books at Trent Lakes Public Library (home of über-cool librarians), presented to a super-enthusiastic bunch of students at Trent Lakes Elementary, and was given a “seal of approval,” complete with flipper clapping. Plus, THEY HAD MADE ME A SIGN! So I flew home on Saturday feeling like a rock star.

Those Trent Lakes kids really know how to make someone feel special.

A huge thank you to the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, to TD Bank, and to the teachers and librarians who spent hours organizing and who made the week an absolute pleasure. And to the hundreds of kids I met! You are all amazing, and many of you perform EXCELLENT dramatic death scenes, create highly realistic explosion sound effects, and invent absolutely ridiculous things with pipe cleaners. Thank you!

Off to Ontario

I’m heading to Ontario in May, as part of the annual TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour. Each year, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre chooses thirty authors, illustrators, and storytellers and sends them to a province outside their own for a tour of schools and libraries.

This year, I’m one of the thirty!

I fly into Ottawa on May 5th, then spend a week winding my way toward Toronto, via Nepean, Sharbot Lake, Tweed, Marmora, Dunsford, and Buckhorn.

I have to admit, my grasp of Ontario geography is a little fuzzy. Last time I was there, I had to use Google Maps to figure out which Great Lake I was standing beside. But my world view’s going to be bigger and better by May 11th.

A big thank you to TD Canadian Children’s Book Week for the opportunity. And Ontario readers, I can’t wait to meet you!

New Ink Well workshops

Stacey, Rachelle, and I are hosting three new writing workshops this season, on Saturday mornings at Kits Neighbourhood House. We’d love company!

Saturday, January 26th
The Voice: KitLit Edition

Saturday, February 23rd
Epistolary in an Emoji World
(I promise it will be worth attending this workshop simply to hear me try to say “epistolary” aloud.)

Saturday, April 27th
All the Feels

Find out more here, and I hope to see you there! Both aspiring and published writers are welcome.

Whirlwinds

I spent last weekend with approximately a billion lovely Edmonton relatives, including my 94-year-old grandma. I’ve been home for just long enough to do laundry and see Rachelle Delaney at the Vancouver Writers Festival, and now I’m off to the Surrey International Writers Conference.

It’s going to be a whirlwind. I teach a workshop on conflict and one on voice in children’s books, I speak on a children’s book panel, I meet individually with writers, and I try to remain socially appropriate for an entire weekend. (Possible? Probably not.)

I spoke at this same conference about five years ago, and it was fabulous. They do an amazing job of creating a welcoming, inclusive, exciting atmosphere, even when hundreds of us are introverts.

Plus: hotel room by myself for three days! (Not to imply that I didn’t love sharing those adjoining rooms with my sister and our four children over the Edmonton weekend, of course. But “room of one’s own” and all…)

This weekend’s writing conference is sold out, but if you feel inspired, there’s a cruise. Just saying.

After the conference, I’m home in time to create a haunted house at my son’s school, because somehow I’ve been put in charge of that. (Occupational hazard.)

Hope your own October weeks are fun, productive, and pumpkin-ish.

Fall writing workshops

I’m teaching workshops with Ink Well Vancouver again this fall, along with my friends Rachelle Delaney and Stacey Matson. Because what could be better than spending a morning talking about writing?

Well, three mornings.

If you have writers in your life, published or unpublished, send them here to register!

Building Blocks of Plot: Conflict and Tension
Sunday September 23, 9:15 to 11:45 am
Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (2305 W 7th Ave, Vancouver)

Raise the stakes of your story, amp up the pressure, and torture your characters. The goals of this workshop may sound a bit macabre, but the results will be worth it! Cranking up the conflict in your story — in carefully crafted ways — will keep your readers turning pages long after bedtime. Together, we’ll examine time-honoured methods of creating conflict, try our hands at some new ones, and discuss less recognized ways (subtext, anyone?) to build tension in children’s books.
Cost: $60.00.

Building Blocks of Plot: Scenes that Sizzle
Sunday October 28, 9:15 to 11:45 am
Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (2305 W 7th Ave, Vancouver)

Whether you’re writing an early reader, a chapter book, or a young-adult novel, building great scenes is vital. So what are the components of a strong, compelling scene? Through famous examples, writing activities, and group discussion, we’ll explore ways to develop character, establish voice, and propel your story forward.
Cost: $60.00.

Building Blocks of Plot: The Arc
Sunday November 18, 9:15 to 11:45 am
Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (2305 W 7th Ave, Vancouver)

Hero’s journey? Twenty-two story steps? Something about a cat that needs saving? There are countless plotting methods out there. In this workshop, we’ll explore the ones that work best in children’s books. We’ll figure out how to choose the right plot form for each project. Then, even the “pantsers” among us will try our hands at plotting a story!
Cost: $60.00.

People who sign up for all three fall sessions receive a 20-page manuscript consultation. (Yes, more talking about writing!)

Perfect picture books

I stopped by Kidsbooks last night, where Kallie George and Sara Gillingham were launching their latest picture books.

Here’s Kallie reading from The Doll Hospital, which Sara illustrated with a limited palate that makes it look both richly saturated and adorably retro. It’s a gorgeous book.

And here’s Sara playing guessing games with Boats Are Busy.

So much fun! (Why don’t I write picture books? Why do I write about pot and surveillance and teen pregnancy? Picture books are so much prettier!)

To Hope and back again

I spent the last week on a whirlwind tour of the Fraser Valley, thanks to the Fraser Valley Regional Library, Reading Link Challenge, and a lot of gracious and highly organized teachers and librarians. (If anyone at the United Nations is reading this, you should immediately hire Rachel Burke. She’ll get those humanitarian aid deliveries organized faster than you can say “Read, Learn, Play.”)


(Thank you to Maple Ridge librarian Sally Gwyn for the photo!)

With my books in tow, I went to Maple Ridge, Chilliwack, Langley, Yarrow, Hope, Mission, Port Coquitlam, and Delta. I presented to groups of 30 and groups of 150. I told strange scientist tales from DNA Detective and underwear-outside-clothes stories from 50 Underwear Questions.

I collected lots of favourite moments from along the way, like when one small boy stayed behind to say very shyly “you’re funny and I like books.” Or when kids at Coquihalla Elementary in Hope kept saying “Hi, Ms. Deb,” to the visiting librarian in their hallway, and it turned out she’s known them all since their days at toddler story hour. I think the happiest kids to see me were those from Maple Ridge Environmental School, who spend tons of their time outdoors. It was torrentially raining that day, and my presentation is 100 percent monsoon-free.

Thank you to all the libraries and schools that so kindly hosted me, and all the students who perfected their dramatic death scenes and their explosion sound effects. I had an amazing time!

The ALAN workshop

Guys, I’ve found it. Nirvana for book-lovers. It’s called the ALAN Workshop, it was held this year in St. Louis, and I was invited to speak about Prince of Pot on a panel with the shockingly clever and wise Jennifer E. Smith, J.C. Geiger, and Shanetia Clark.

I’m quite sure I was incoherent, but who can blame me? LOOK at the size of this room:

There are 500 teachers at the workshop, all of whom receive a giant box of curated books, which they sort and re-sort in mysterious ways as the day progresses. Plus they seem to know everyone and everything related to YA literature.

But it’s impossible to be nervous (well, almost impossible), because everyone there is (a) incredibly nice and (b) incredibly happy. I met a teacher from Florida outside the convention centre who said, “Isn’t this amazing? I’m so glad I’m an English teacher and not a math teacher. This is so much better than a math convention!”

It was awesome. I want very badly to go back. Or maybe to live permanently amidst those stacks of books.

On a side note, St. Louis itself was also full of wonderful surprises, a few of which are here:

And, best of all:

Thank you, ALAN, for inviting me, and Groundwood Books for sending me!

Introducing Ink Well Vancouver

Today’s launch day! I’ve been working with two of my favourite people, Rachelle Delaney and Stacey Matson, on a new community for children’s writers and aspiring writers. It’s called Ink Well Vancouver. We have lots more plans for the future, but our very first offering is a six-week workshop.

It’s going to look just like this, except indoors and in January.

I would love, love, love if you would sign up to join us. There’s nothing better than an evening spent talking about writing and children’s books, and it’s even better when it’s with awesome people. Sign up is here!